One-woman play tells stories of women present at crucifixion

Olivia Woodford portrays Mary Magdalene in a performance of “Heart of the Cross” March 24 at St. Mary Parish in Wrentham. Pilot photo/Seana Murphy Dorich

WRENTHAM -- Parishioners gathered at St. Mary Parish in Wrentham March 24 to attend a compelling drama about the women who witnessed Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The play, entitled “The Heart of the Cross,” depicted Christ’s Passion from the perspectives of Veronica, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, Jesus’ mother. It also brought to life the point of view of a young girl present behind the scenes at The Last Supper.

“Heart of the Cross” is a one-woman production, written and performed by Olivia Woodford. She has been touring the country with the production since 1992. Soon she will go international with a circuit in New Zealand. Woodford has also authored three other works inspired by the life of Jesus: “Hearing the Call,” which tells the stories of the widow Susanna, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, and the stranger who spoke to the woman at the well; “Let it Be,” which is the story of Joanna, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, and Mary of Bethany; and “Faith, A Mother’s Story,” which tells of the birth of Jesus and what preceded it.

Woodford’s play was over an hour long, yet her performance remained fresh through every minute. A schooled performer and graduate of Boston University’s performing arts school, Woodford expertly transitioned among her characters, clearly defining and communicating each woman’s compelling tale. Her only prop was a simple green piece of fabric, which she transformed from a cleaning rag to a shawl as she moved from one story to the next.

Her range was wide. She grew from an adolescent miffed at the work she needed to do to prepare for the “Master’s” visit to a mother dealing with the death of her son. Her text was rich in poignant observations made by these women.

After having surreptitiously watched Jesus wash the feet of His disciples, the young girl noted, “A master is the kind of man who can master others, but does just the opposite.”

Each woman’s life lesson was equally treated in the script.

After pondering the meaning of, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” Veronica realized that she, like Jesus, is meek.

She said, “He [Jesus] is showing me how to be meek, but not down-trodden.... I can feel the weight of the cross on my shoulder. I have just taken a step alongside Jesus.”

Woodford’s portrayal of Mary Magdalene was particularly stirring. She played a woman, who was both devoted to and moved by Christ’s compassion, noting:

“He had healed my heart, and I could love again.”

Most compelling, however, was Woodford’s heart-wrenching and tearful witness of Jesus’ mother, whose strength was tangible as she spoke with faith while preparing her son’s body for burial.

“Today I am awashed and called anew,” she said. “What I thought was the end is only the beginning. I become the mother of all God’s children, and not until they see that light of God will I stop praying.”

“Heart of the Cross” is scheduled for performances throughout Massachusetts in April and May. For a complete list of these performances, visit www.biblewomen.com

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